Originally published November 12, 2003
The first measurable snow of the fall collected in our field this morning. Always a signal day, the unoofficial beginning of what seems to me the proper part of the year.
Depend on snow for a whistling kind of clean. Lushness has its pleasures, but nothing to match the stinging purity of a day when the cold has dried the air — dried it so much that the stars don’t twinkle in the humidity but just hang there. When a long, quick uphill climb leaves you not sweating but at a kind of perfect equilibrium, warmed enough from inside to cope with the chill pushing in.
But you can’t depend on winter, on snow, and there’s the rub. We know now that winter is only a possibility — that on a globally warming planet it becomes each year less likely.
We know, from the computerized climate models running infinitely in a dozen university labs, that our funnel of carbon into the atmosphere means in the not-too-distant future there simply won’t be winter here at some point. No season when precipitation falls as snow instead of cold rain, when liquid water somehow snaps into ice…